My sister is in rehab for the third time in less than two months. We haven’t spoken at all in this period. Before treatment, she would blame me and demolish me emotionally. But the way my dad is approaching the situation is the same as mine- no communication and waiting for the day when she gets better. I know she needs to help herself but the last conversation she had with my dad was telling him she gets high when she thinks he doesn’t love her. I don’t want her in rehab thinking that no one loves her. I want to call her and start- I mean I don’t even know what to call it, but I want to have more than we have now. I want to call her and just talk to her, I want her to know someone is waiting for her to get better, someone is here for her when this is all over. But I’m scared. I’m scared she’ll turn it all around on me. But I’m also scared that she’ll accept the call and we’ll have a good conversation and then the next time she’s run out on rehab, she’ll expect me to give her a place to stay or money or whatever because of the phonecall.
I think you might consider writing your sister a letter & mailing it to the rehab. You can still have boundaries for when she gets out - she should go to a sober living place anyhow and not rely on family for a place to live. The letter allows some distance and allows you to state your feelings & communicate your love but allow some space, so you don’t have to worry whether she will react in a negative way. I’m the mom of a 26-yo son with SUD so I know how hard it can be.
I’d certainly reach out and encourage her. Tell her she can beat this. You can detach with love. Calling her to show your support risks nothing and assists with your recovery. If she gets angry know that this anger is the byproduct of her initial recovery. It’s not her true feelings. Those won’t manifest until she’s well into her recovery.
As for your father, he’s on his own journey. Stay in your own “hoop”. Go to Al Anon and get a sponsor ASAP.
Her recovery begins with yours.
My son has only been sober for 14 months after multiple relapses. He’s just beginning to act with empathy and respect that he lacked during his teen years.
Thank you for your response and sympathy. And I have thought of writing a letter, thank you for the suggestion! I’m just scared by the time I mail it or by the time she gets there, it will be gone. But it can’t hurt to try!
Thanks so much for your reply and perspective!
How long do I wait for him to come out of denial?
Hi @Ivy17 thanks for sharing, my husband has struggled with addiction and his brother has too, so I’ve experienced how relationships feel when it’s someone I love struggling, and also his sibling relationship through this as well.
One of the core tenets of our course, which comes highly recommended by other village community members like you and it’s efficacy has been proven in clinical trials, is communication. It can be extremely challenging to communicate with someone who’s brain is hi-jacked by a substance use disorder…
- because their brain functioning is affected (with impaired reasoning, decision making and impulse management and laser focused on substance acquisition to maintain an equilibrium that’s developed over time as dependence on this substance to feel ‘normal’), and
- because it’s really frustrating to love someone and watch their self destructive and deceptive behavior
Still, the more effective our communication is the more we can connect and get on the same page and drive positive change with this person - because we love them and are motivated to see them succeed, which is a very powerful force when bolstered with evidence based behavioral change skills.
From our course, there are 2 particular modules I think would be very helpful for helping with this specific question you’ve posed: 1) Positive Communication & 2) Setting Limits. Positive Communication helps you plan for conversations so you can best be heard by your sister and Setting Limits helps you identify your breaking points so you plan to brake ahead of then, and of course to communicate about these in ways that allow you to maintain connection.
Here’s an intro to these concepts:
Positive communication tips
Planning out what we want to say ahead of time helps us to not fall into communication habits, and to communicate most effectively, remember: their brains are working to recover so we need to keep it simple and to the point.
- Be brief: keep it short and to the point so the message doesn’t get lost (say, by going off on tangents)
- Speak on the positive: we’re more likely to be heard when we’re sweet
- Be specific: make your point clear and detailed so it’s not left to interpretation
- Label your feelings: “I feel…” not “you make me feel…” - own your feelings and remove blame and judgement
- Offer understanding: “I understand why…” to build connection
- Accept partial responsibility: where have you not shown up as you’d like to? Have you yelled, argued, given the silent treatment?
- Offer to help, ask for or make a commitment: what would you like to happen from this conversation? Again, making it clear so we’re heard, and / or they understand how we’re willing to support.
Planning your conversation using these tips can take practice to implement and using these over time will help you better connect and leverage your relationship to influence positive addiction recovery outcomes through your relationship.
When it comes to setting limits we have a multi-step process that starts with:
- identifying your limits,
- then setting them (writing them out clearly defining them),
- identifying the common pathway or sequence of events that leads up to you getting pushed beyond your limits (eg. is it waiting til the last minute when your sister has no other planned options that she’ll ask for a place to stay and you feel you have to give in)
- with this map clearly drawn out, then identifying the “brake” point before you “break”, to use a metaphor, where can you put your foot on the brake so you don’t break. Getting ahead of getting pushed beyond your limits really helps.
- Often this will involve communicating the limit, and using the positive communication tips to plan that conversation is really helpful.
Applied to your situation, it sounds like you’ve identified a limit already - that you don’t want to be on the hook for housing post-rehab. You then might consider how you expect this to play out, when will she ask you to stay, how can you get ahead of the ask and make an alternative plan with her and communicate your limit?
You might be thinking “this seems like a lot of work!” And it does take work to change our behavior from our natural, knee jerk reactions, but I might suggest that in the past those reactions haven’t necessarily gotten the desired results and that it’s worth trying something proven effective! Especially since you’re doing the emotional work either way.
Love to welcome you into the course for more on these and other vital skills when loving someone through addiction or recovery, and either way, I hope the above is helpful to your immediate questions!
How long do I wait for him to come out of denial?
UPDATE: How do you push past the fear?
Thank you so much for your incredible response, I found it really helpful. I am definitely taking notes on it! And I am for sure considering the course!